First things first — your most essential resources are your friends and social groups. Don’t be afraid to turn the ol’ puppy-dog eyes on your friends when you ask to mooch their old textbooks for a quarter or two. If this doesn’t fly, try negotiating for a reasonable price by dropping hints at how their friendship has changed your life all the while. Don’t be afraid to brown-nose — you may be pleasantly surprised at the results.
If you’re lucky, sometimes you can get away with skimping on buying texts altogether. Checking RateMyProfessors can be a lifesaver because sometimes a kind soul will announce that that grossly overpriced textbook on your list is supplementary reading at best. This can save you from parading into class with your massive textbook in hand, only to bust a vein when the professor announces the class is based off of lecture material.
For the linguists out there: Don’t buy any of the multiple textbooks, CDs and DVDs required for linguistics courses because you can simply use and abuse the language lab on the third floor of HSS, where all of the materials are available for free.
If you can’t weasel your way out of buying textbooks, look no farther than using online resources such as Facebook Marketplace, PostYourBook, and Uloop. Through these sites, students can negotiate prices and arrange to meet with each other on-campus to make exchanges. PostYourBook has been mass-emailing the entire UCSD campus for two consecutive quarters — the website boasts good prices that can be bartered down with actual students.
For the starving literature majors out there, PDFs of public domain books (Shakespeare, Kant, Locke, etc.) can be downloaded free from sites like Project Gutenberg. You can read these on your laptop, or a Kindle if you’re feeling fancy.
Start looking for texts as soon as you get your required list because ordering online can save you a wad. Websites such as Amazon, Half and AbeBooks can give you a quick fix, with books on the market as low as a few cents (shipping is a sneaky little gremlin, though). What’s more, you can sell back your books through these same sites, instead of being massively gypped by the insulting bookstore buyback prices.
Next quarter, do your wallet — and your stomach — a favor and investigate your options before turning to the bookstore as a last resort.